“Some of the red grapes already have color!”…….This was the voicemail I received on July 5th from our Viticulturalist about a few of the blocks in our Estate Vineyard. Needless to say the warm spring and a couple of early heat spikes have truly hastened the pace of ripening here in Amador County making us approximately 2 weeks ahead of a normal or average year. We have been very busy over the past few months introducing some new viticultural techniques in our vineyards with the intention of pushing the proverbial quality bar even higher. We are never satisfied and are constantly seeking ways to improve our grape and wine quality so that we can offer the most delicious wines possible. I, as well as many others, are expecting another banner year for grape quality. While the crops loads may be down slightly less than the previous two vintages, we are very excited for what the coming months have to offer.
In the Cellar, we’ve bottled all of our 2012 wines and they are patiently (unlike me) waiting for their release in the next 3-5 months. As for the new 2013 wines, they are just over half way through the aging process and they are beginning to show a balance of power and finesse that is as intriguing as it is rare. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Moises, my Assistant Winemaker, and I will begin putting the 2013 blends together. After the blends are assembled, we will then put them back in barrel to further integrate until April when we then begin bottling. It goes without saying, grape growing and winemaking is a cyclical process!
The decadent wines made from this grape are usually deeply colored and typically loaded with intense aromas and flavors of blueberries, plums and blackberries. New world winemakers are finding success employing the use of new French oak barrels that lend levels of complexity and viscosity, helping to balance the grapes high natural acidity. The key to a successful harvest of this variety is closely monitoring the fruits acidity in relation to brix levels. It is always as if we are playing an anxious waiting game with Mother Nature where patience is greatly rewarded. This high acid, low tannin composition makes Barbera a wonderfully food friendly wine. Barbera stands up to, and dances with, almost any meal you can conjure.
The success of Barbera grown in Amador County can mostly be attributed to the similar climate we share with the grapes origin in Piedmont, Italy. Both locales have a Mediterranean Climate, meaning, the average high and low temperatures throughout the growing season only vary by a few degrees ºF. Both Piedmont and Amador County have four fairly distinct seasons. Each having, long, hot summers with occasional storms, a warm and pleasant fall, a short winter with occasionalfrost and snow, and a spring that starts in February or early March. Combine this fact with the well-draining soils of Amador, and Barbera is perfectly at home here and rival any of those produced in Italy.
Barbera has a long history in Amador County and an even longer, brighter future. With so much upside potential, Amador County Barbera is poised to continue is rapid ascension as one of the flagship wines from the region. The vintages soon to come will put Amador County Barbera on the international radar. Zinfandel may be King, but Barbera is unsubtly making a run at the crown.
Zinfandel grows very, very well in Amador. And, it has been growing here for a very long time. The original Grandpère vineyard across the street from Renwood Winery is acknowledged as the oldest, continuously producing zinfandel vineyard in the United States.
What are some of the factors that contribute to growing great zin? According to Joe Shebl, Winemaker and General Manager at Renwood Winery: it’s weather, soil, artisan production, and the micro-climates.
“We have dramatic shifts in diurnal temperatures,” he says, “as much as 40 degrees.” That means temperatures that reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoon might cool to 50 degrees in the night. “This helps grapes maintain a really good natural acidity, a vibrancy. And that translates to a wonderful range of styles in the wine – from bright red fruit to heavier plums and blackberries."
"Little pockets of vineyards, set amidst the rolling hills create fruits that are so distinctive from vintage to vintage."
"Not to be cliché," he adds, "but Amador is a veritable mosaic of microclimates. Little pockets of vineyards, set amidst the rolling hills create fruits that are so distinctive from vintage to vintage. There are not big swaths of vineyards that cover extensive acreages that you will find in larger valleys. Here the hills are tighter, the rise to the mountains closer, and the land snakes individually along ridges, rises, rivers, and diverse geological landscaping."
Joe sees this expression best enunciated in the Signature Series. What is the difference in taste profile, you ask?
|One of our darkest wines. Plum and ultra-ripe cherries.||Fox Creek 66%, Habacht 20%, Veauta 6%,
NCBP 4%, Oakmont 4%
|100% Zin||Blueberry, cinnamon to start; orange zest and marmalade mid-point to finish||Habcht 72%, D’Agostini 16%, Deaver 12%|
|Bright red fruit, vanilla and cedar.||Fox Creek 76%, Kirkland 18%, Veauta 6%|
7% Petite Sirah
|Dark red fruit, clove, cocoa and dried herbs.||Deaver 66%,
Fox Creek 28%, Bailey 7%
|86% Zin, 11% Petite Sirah, 2% Syrah,
|This wine is from multiple vineyard sources, it is dark and dusky with raspberries, dried herbs, and cocoa dust.||Kirkland 32%,
Fox Creek 26%, Bowling 26%, plus others.
We’ve finished what I’m going to call one of the best vintages in the past 10 years here at Renwood. I am so thrilled to back where my career began and to be working with such an outstanding group of motivated professionals.
The Vintage of 2013 is my 15th year doing what I call a “pinch-yourself-profession”, and I’m as excited I’ve ever been to be making wine here in Amador County (actually, I’m giddy like a little kid!!). I started here at Renwood right out of College after obtaining my degree in Biology and Chemistry at Sacramento State University. My first job was as a Cellar hand, cleaning and sanitizing tanks and doing whatever I could to learn and get better. Shortly after, I moved up into the winery laboratory as enologist and a few years later I was promoted to Assistant Winemaker then Winemaker. In 2009, I left Renwood to work on a few other local projects and now, 4 years later, I’ve come back full circle as Director of Winemaking to where I truly feel like I belong.
Ok, now for the fun stuff. The 2011 wines have all been bottled and are looking extremely fruity and elegant to this point and are only going to get better with time. Keep an eye out when you visit our beautifully renovated Tasting Room for some of the new releases. The menu is always changing so each visit is likely to bring you new and interesting surprises. As for the 2012’s that are aging quietly in barrel; this to, is a vintage that is likely to be talked about for years to come. In my next note to you, I’ll fill you in a bit more on some of the outstanding wines that are coming your way.
We have been seriously blessed here in Amador with the vintage of the decade. The vines in 2013 yielded some of the most flavorful and balanced fruit I’ve ever seen. This has directly translated into new wines that are profound and bold yet have retained deep layers of fruity complexity that can give a guy like me chills.
I’ve implemented lots of changes here to help increase our overall wine quality. We were the first winery to ever pick at night in the Shenandoah Valley. We brought in mobile light towers to some of our apex vineyards and we began picking the fruit at 3:00 AM. Yes, it’s crazy! But by doing this we are ensured to get the coldest, freshest fruit into our tanks, which is my highest priority at this critical stage of the process. The other big change has occurred at the crusher. We no longer “crush” our fruit here. We are only destemming the fruit, that is, we are using our equipment to simply knock the berries off of the stems, so in effect we are fermenting whole berries. This is crucial for attaining my goal of powerful and deeply fruit driven wines and I cannot wait to share them with you! Lastly, barrels, oh the barrels! We have shifted to aging our wines in primarily French Oak. We feel that this is the best wood for us since it integrates slowly and softly and helps to develop excellent, complex wines.
Not only is Production here at Renwood under new management, so is our Hospitality Department. Be sure to stay tuned for new and exciting events as well as ongoing Food & Wine Pairings that change seasonally. Our Tours here fun and educational and you get to see how we make our wines in a very boutique way.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing you at our next Member party and sharing a glass of Renwood Wine.
We had just moved into our new house and had begun ripping out EVERYTHING! Carpets, tile, kitchen counters, floorboards. In our compromised mental state that I believe all those who have ever moved have been in, we (read: I) decided to invite the entire family over for Christmas Eve Dinner. This was not well received by my adoring wife, needless to say.
T-Minus 13 days.
With only half the floors completed and some painting done, we persisted. The kitchen sink and oven worked. Perfect to cook my mother-in-law’s “best-you-ever-had” stuffing. Despite our valiant efforts, we epically failed to complete the whole house upgrades like those fine folks on TV always do.
We have a loving and very understanding family.
Christmas Eve arrived. It went off completely without a hitch, except for one glitch. I had forgotten to remove the staples from the subfloor after I took out the tile! After the customary pleasantries, I spent the next two hours taking the staples out so we all could have dinner together. Everything turned out wonderful and we enjoyed some amazing food and wine. The star attraction were ribs smothered in my original barbecue sauce that I’ve been perfecting over the past 8 or 9 years (yes, I wanted something nontraditional for Christmas, hey, it’s my house!). If you want to try it at home, download the recipe here.
Enjoy with ribs (you get to choose!) and a bottle of Renwood Old Vine Zinfandel.
Mmmm…, that’s so good!”
Working the tasting room at Renwood, I hear that a lot.
While the woman on the other side of the tasting room bar is falling in love with the 2011 Barbera I just poured, her husband is frustrated looking at his phone. The game is on and Amador County can be unfriendly to cell phones. I lean across the bar and mention to him that we have free wi-fi running through the entire tasting room and patio and he should log on. He shoots me a look a pure gratitude and in a moment all is right with the world. His team is winning and he is able to put his phone away and concentrate on the glass of wine in front of him.
“Wow, that’s a really good Barbera.” He says.
Again, I hear that a lot at Renwood.
Working at Renwood is a lot of fun. And when I am pouring your flights you know I am having as good a time as you are. Still, when people find out that I live in Sacramento and drive almost an hour to Amador County just to pour wine, I am inevitably asked “Why?” “Especially when it’s so far?”
I respond that it isn’t that far away, the drive is beautiful and Renwood is a great winery to work for.
More than that, I like the community that wine creates in the tasting room. The conversations that are begun over a glass of wine seem more intense. The idea that a discussion over (and about) a glass of Zinfandel can transcend to the deeper truths about life inspires me. Whether my guest is a seasoned wine connoisseur or a first time tasting novice, it doesn’t matter.
It’s as much about the experience as it is the wine. Renwood makes the some of the best Zinfandels in Amador County, and we have the gold medals to prove it. But almost as important is the effort put forth by our staff to make sure that our guests enjoy themselves. Everyday we try to create an atmosphere for our members that is commensurate with the quality of our wines. It’s working. Our members tell me we have the most elegant tasting room in the foothills and I agree with them.
The couple in front of me are at the end of their flight and are equally impressed with our wine and our tasting room. Both have been really nice and fun to talk to. I decide to throw a little something special at them. I reach for my current Renwood favorite: the 2010 Special Reserve Dry Creek Zinfandel (or what I refer to as “Love in a glass”). I pour them a small taste.
Each takes a sip and, almost in unison, reply “That is Fantastic!”
I hear that a lot at Renwood … and it makes me smile every time.
The quality of the grapes this year is truly outstanding and even better than the acclaimed vintage of 2012. I have not seen fruit with this type of density of flavor and overall balance in at least 10 years. Everything from Alicante Bouschet to Zinfandel is tasting phenomenal and should result in some seriously delicious wines!
As of early October, we have already crushed more than 90% of our fruit, putting us well through the 2013 Vintage. With a cool down in the days and weeks to come, we'll get some breathing room here at the winery which will give us a chance to make room for the remaining fruit. I expect that we will be ready for the final harvest, taking all the fruit off the vines by the end of the month. If this holds true, our harvest this year will conclude almost 3 weeks earlier than those of the last several years.
As for what's new with us here at Renwood, we've purchased a significant number of new barrels this year, of which 70% are French Oak and the other 30% American Oak. We've been running trials with a multitude of barrel companies to find the perfect match for our wines and Zinfandels in particular. This is good news for all of us! Over the coming months, you'll be seeing new releases from us that will blow you away. The French Oak integrates seamlessly into the wines helping to make them as vibrant and complex as ever.
We invite you to schedule a tour of our facilities so that you may experience firsthand the beauty of winemaking. Many, many thanks for your support.
On Saturday, June 8th at 6 p.m., Renwood will host a special dinner at the winery showcasing the barbera grape and one of America’s foremost wine-and-food experts, Darrell Corti, whom many of you may know as the proprietor of Corti Bros. Grocery in Sacramento. The dinner is being held in conjunction with Amador County’s sold-out 3rd annual Barbera Festival and will feature a multi-course dinner paired with several distinctive barberas selected to highlight the variety’s many charms. Corti and Renwood winemaker Dave Crippen will be on hand to discuss each wine and how they complement the food.
Darrell Corti is a legendary grocer/wine merchant who was the first American to import fine olive oils, prosciutto, white truffles, exotic salts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Brie cheeses, and many other delicacies. He also introduced Californians to rare sherries and single-malt bourbons and scotches. Many a budding oenophile first discovered the great wines of the world in the Corti Bros. wine department, Darrell’s domain for 50 years.
Corti has also been instrumental in the development of Amador County as a world-class wine-growing region, advising local vintners on where and what to plant, and perpetually encouraging them to strive for excellence. In recognition of his contributions, Darrell was inducted, in 2008, into the Vintners Hall of Fame, the only wine merchant to be so honored. He also is a member of the Italian Trade Commission’s Hall of Fame – for introducing so many Italian wines and foodstuffs to the American market – and, in 1992, received the rare honor of being named a Cavaliere (i.e., an Italian knight) by the Italian government.
Naturally, Darrell is an expert on barbera, the northern Italian grape variety – and longtime mainstay of the Sierra Foothills wine scene – that produces wonderfully fruity, sensuously textured red wines that beautifully accompany food. Our June 8th Barbera Dinner is a rare opportunity for oenophiles to experience the joys of barbera guided by one of the world’s top wine educators.
Tickets to the dinner are $75 per person and can be purchased at /product/Darrell-Corti-Dinner.
Last year, Renwood went all Hollywood by sponsoring the 2012 Film Independent Forum at the Director’s Guild in Los Angeles and the premier after-parties of “Anna Karenina” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” two of the year’s most successful movies. Now that we’ve gotten the film bug, we’re kicking off 2013 by sponsoring the Red Carpet Coverage of Hollywood’s much-loved Independent Spirit Awards, which annually honor the best achievements in American independent film. Our involvement is quite apropos, as Amador County has seen more than its fair share of stubbornly independent pioneers – both gold miners and winegrowers – over the past 160 years.
This year’s Spirit Awards ceremony is on Saturday, February 23rd (a day before the Oscars) in Santa Monica, CA and will be televised that evening at 10:00 pm on IFC, the Independent Film Channel. (The show will be hosted by comedian Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live.) Renwood is sponsoring red carpet coverage hosted by Luke Reichle’s of “Secrets of the Red Carpet,” Hollywood style-maker Luke Reichle’s guide to dressing with ease, power and maximum allure, which will be aired on Live Stream Live, www.SheKnows.com and streamed on our website at www.renwood.com. Join us as this Saturday at 10:30 am PST as we pull back the veil on Hollywood and give you a real insiders look at a red carpet event. Mark your calendars!!
This is just the first of several film industry events we have on the calendar for 2013. Next month, we’ll be the official wine sponsor for the New York premier of “Admissions,” Tina Fey’s new movie.
It’s a tough job, but some winery has to do it!
Winegrowing is all about the seasons. In early spring, after a winter’s rains, grapevines are born anew, their buds opening to generate the foliage that creates a vine’s vegetative ‘canopy’. A month later, tiny grape blossoms appear, setting the stage for the hard little berries that eventually will turn into flavorsome grapes and wine.
Summer’s warmth slowly ripen the grapes, while winemakers prepare their tanks, barrels, hoses and pumps for the onslaught of fruit that will deluge them between late August and late October, the all-important harvest season. By early autumn, fermentations are bubbling away, tanks are rapidly filled and emptied, and new wines are resting in barrels to attain the requisite amount of aging prior to bottling.
But what of winter? Well, just as bears and grapevines hibernate – for the vines, it’s known as winter dormancy – so do winemakers. There may be a secondary (malolactic) fermentation to monitor, some bottling of previous vintages to do, and a bunch of equipment to clean, but, by and large, winter is the quietest, most relaxed time of year in the vineyard (except for pruning, which usually begins in January) and the winery. That’s why winemakers typically take their annual vacations during the winter months, often flying off to tropical climates to rest, relax and recharge. Our very own Dave Crippen, Renwood winemaker for the past decade, will be jetting off to Florida for some R&R.
“Our family has a time share and we booked it in Orlando to visit Disney World, the Kennedy Space Center and Universal studios. It should be a hoot” says Dave. “There is plenty for us to do in the winery, winter notwithstanding, but we like to take the time when we can.”
We know that many of our customers also hunker down for winter (not the skiers or snowboarders, of course), but before you do, allow us to wish you and yours a Happy New Year. We look forward to seeing you in 2013!